Performances/recordings that changed the way you hear a piece forever …

… not necessarily that became your favourite versions thereafter, but that posited themselves in your musical memory banks as valid but radically different interpretative options …

ie just for starters (for me at least), Reinhard Goebel in the Brandenburgs

Thomas Dausgaaard in Schubert 8 (ie, ‘Unfinished’)

Samiil Feinberg in Bach ’48’

Celibidache in Sibelius 5

Hans Rosbaud in Mahler 6

Toscanini/BBC SO/1935 in Brahms 4

… please bring your own list

27 thoughts on “Performances/recordings that changed the way you hear a piece forever …

  1. Sue Black

    It was (I’m pretty sure the first) Dieskau/Moore Schone Mullerin. As it went along, it became increasingly probable that the Miller’s daughter was not the object of the singer’s love, but nature itself. The instructions from the stones; the colour green; the hatred of the huntsman; the refuge in the brook and the reward of the lullaby from the brook.The feeling in those bits was heightened compared to the verses extolling his love for the girl. A happy ending! A hymn to pantheism was how they did it. I wont listen to it any other way. What emphasised the experience was listening with someone who had exactly the same between the eyes experience.


  2. Could hardly agree more Sue. But please, please do try and listen to the great Danish tenor Aksel Schiøtz (just post-War), also with Gerald Moore (Danacord), the pathos in the voice, its expressive potency, something quite unique.


  3. I could add his Beethoven symphonies, although, as a child of the 80s/90s, I grew up with them. Interesting if you get to know a work via a ‘radical’ performance, and only hear a ‘standard’ account later. ‘Standard’ can then sound ‘radical.’

    Coming at it from the other end, I recall that the Murray Perahia / ASMF 5th Brandenburg Concerto sounded extraordinary to me, because period instruments / speeds / articulation were the norm while I was getting into classical music. Having that very fine performance alongside those of Alessandrini / Pinnock / Antonini / Goebel etc. is of course the wonderful thing about collecting.


  4. Interesting if you get to know a work via a ‘radical’ performance, and only hear a ‘standard’ account later.’ Yes, I was just thinking of Stokowski’s Petrushka with his Symphony Orchestra (now on Testament) – a restless, riotous, emotive, cartoon-style (and fabulously well played) tour-de-force. I love it more than any other – though I know it’s ‘wrong’ in so many key respects (not least the explosive recorded sound)


  5. That sounds great! Will have to get it. Perhaps I’ll play it back-to-back with a well played but more sober version (Cleveland / Boulez?) to point up the contrast.

    Ps. I got to know the early Stravinsky ballets through a box set of Stravinsky’s own 60s recordings, so I’m used to hearing them in ‘manipulated’ recorded sound (in that famously dense page of the Rite, it sounds like there’s a mic INSIDE the guiro).


  6. Steven Swalbe.

    Otto Klemperer: Mendelssohn op. 90 (VSO) (PO) The fastest saltarello on record. What? He?
    Furtwängler ‘9th’ and D944 – unsurpassed.
    Toscanini with the SLOWEST ‘Parsifal’. Really?
    Richard Strauss messing up the 5th.
    ‘Eroica’ (1) as either a non troppo or con brio. That goes for the slow movt of op.92 Walter/C. Kleiber.
    Horovitz with Rachmaninoff 3. The bravura.
    C’est suffisant pour maintenant.


  7. Which Horowitz Rach 3? The ‘live’ NYPSO version with Barbirolli was once described by one of our listeners as ‘the best recording of anything ever made’ (not in terms of sound quality I hasten to add). Know that super-swift Klemperer … but I love the ebullience of Solti with the Israel PO – a mixture of old and new playing styles, with the odd strings portamento. Best.


    1. Steven Swalbe.

      Rob! That must have been when JB was prefered to A.T. as chief conductor. I can’t remember hearing it. (have to start listing my recordings).Have with Reiner (1951). The one to which I was referring was in 1978. Saw it live. Ormandy was conducting NYPO. Imperfection? Yes! But….


    2. Steven Swalbe.

      Guess who did a ‘Haffner’ in 15 mins with the LAPO? Oo! What a giveaway! He sounded as if he was frying chips at the same time for the ‘Dodgers’.


  8. allanevans565053587

    The artistry of the great violinists was obscure for me until I heard Morini, Huberman, and then to my amazement., Roman Totenberg. Many of the famous ones had great moments but like Szigeti, could ruin the poise of a phrase with some maudlin whimpering. There was always something uneven, incomplete or undigested to mar the perfection they sought. Totenberg’s Beethoven Violin Concerto lacked the olympian struggle it usually receives. Instead he played it from above, like a creator lovingly looking down onto his masterpiece, each phrase and note naturally commanded and expressively set. Totenberg’s unaccompanied Bach had a polyphony that escaped the others and his Debussy had more gamelan than I had suspected to be lurking in its score. He was surprised that it hadn’t been looked at when he arrived in Paris in 1933 and went to two Debussy pupils to approach its essence. These three violinists took you away from the instrument and brought you into another existence.


  9. trevorharley

    I think the Celibidache Sibelius 5 is no longer available – so what about giving it a spin on Essential Classics, or Sunday morning (what a great Sunday morning piece it makes), so we can hear it?


  10. Great minds Trevor … I was thinking of running a strand with precisely this title, with the Schubert and Sibelius included … glad you read my thoughts. The only problem is ‘clashing’ with other programmes. Fingers crossed.


  11. Robert Roy

    Although I love Elgar’s music very much, I really struggled with the Dream of Gerontious. I listened to Barbirolli, Sargeant and Boult but it never really made sense to me. However, one day whilst in the college library I listened to a new fangled cd of Hickox conducting and, suddenly, it made sense. After that, the others fell into place.


  12. Steven Swalbe.

    Small world: in playing my old cassettes, I came across Hickox with ‘Missa in tempore belli’. Was absolutely astonished. Haydn sounding like Haydn. Wowee! Sorry again for the deviation.


  13. Hearing George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra’s 1963 Mozart Jupiter Symphony Finale made me aware how the music’s extraordinary rhythmic complexity and contrapuntal rigor was chamber-like and utterly joyful. You hear everything, and I mean everything, yet the few expressive rubati are so specific that they mean something. Nearly every other performance I know of this music sounds generalized by comparison.

    There are countless examples, and I could go on and on, but this recording in particular got under my skin and refuses to dislodge itself.


  14. Jed .. when all’s said and done, that’s about my favourite Jupiter, with Beecham’s very different (and eloquently phrased) Sony RPO [mono] version not far behind. Shame about missing repeats. Best. Rob


  15. Steven Swalbe.

    Tommy didn’t like counting pauses to four, as he proved in the 1st. mvt, b4 the C minor crash. He had no time for repeats because St. Helens were playing at home.


  16. Steven Swalbe.

    As TV is out for the mo, I am listening to all my old recordings. Yesterday played, at concert volume. LvBs op.91 with ‘Octophorus’. There was massive woodwind, brass and percussion performing in Turkish fashion. It is presumed that LvB arranged it himself. Mostly impressive; although our anthem was too fast; there was a pause b4 the “Sieg, whose march was a bit speedy for me.


  17. Steve Hothersall

    Hi. Coming to this a little late, and I could wax lyrical on many pieces, but two recordings spring to mind. 1. Solti doing Mahler 2 on Decca. This was issued on vinyl at the start of the digital recording era (and since on CD), and the both the performance and the sound were (and still are) electrifying. I’ve amassed circa 20+versions of Mahler 2 over the years (sad?), but to date, none expose the intricate detail of this work like Solti and the Chicago SO. A second would be Pollini’s disc of Beethoven’s late piano sonatas on DG. Beautifully crafted, intricately played and sensitively portrayed – Op 110 is particularly memorable.



    1. Hi Steve
      Thanks for that. Interesting re Solti’s Mahler 2. I presume you mean the Chicago Symphony version. An earlier LSO version was more finely tensed with a recording which, at the beginning, virtually tore your speaker cones apart. Talk about visceral impact! I remember turning to Klemperer and Walter (his stereo studio version) for comparison and finding them disappointingly limp, though that’s not how I feel now – now that I’ve calmed down a bit! Best. Rob


      1. …. Incidentally Steve I agree about Pollini’s Beethoven – though Richard Goode and Murray Perahia (who has just recorded the ‘Hammerklavier’) also have much to offer.


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